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Watkins Glen High School senior Jenna Gimbar wrote
the following letter as a school project, and decided to send it along
as a prelude to the April 2 Watkins Glen School Board session -- at
which the Board was expected to approve its 2012-13 budget. The budget
plan will go to the voters in May.
To the Editor on April 2:
On March 14, 2012, the SOS (Save Our Schools) group (founded
by and consisting of WGHS students) made its way to Albany to lobby
for our education! Little did we know that with just 27 kids, we would
be leaving our footprints, tears, and opinions with Assemblyman Friend
and Senator Tom O’Mara.
At 6:30 a.m. we packed up the buses with chaperones Ms.
Fitzsimmons, Mr. O’Kane, Mrs. Popovich, and Mrs. Malaney. Charlie
Haeffner took pictures, and we left the parking lot with a WG Seneca
Nation cheer. Ready and pumped to leave, we settled down in our seats
for a four-hour bus ride to our state capital. On the way there, we
prepared ourselves for any questions we might have for the politicians
we were about to meet. One of the most important things that we wanted
was to make sure we knew our facts!
Upon our arrival, we met in a large auditorium-like room
where we were greeted by well-educated and enthused parties rallying
for increased funding. The speakers ranged from mothers, to teachers,
to preachers and students. One 8th grade student opened up with a song
by Whitney Houston which was an unexpected but beautiful way to begin
the day. The best way that I can describe the purpose of this assembly
would be as a unification of fifteen hundred people who came to Albany
that day and spread energy as well as passion.
The day was full of constant movement. Even during the
assembly, there were students who separated from the group to speak
with Assemblyman Friend. Shortly afterwards, we all met with Senator
O’Mara to speak about our concerns in hopes that he could represent
and support our school to Governor Cuomo. We started the meeting with
questions that were a concern to us. We had statistics that we wanted
to ask him about but realized that we had just one chance to speak with
him and wanted to make sure that when we walked away, he knew our story
We began by going around the room, with various students
sharing with him how the cuts had affected our school on a daily basis.
I told him that in losing teachers, we are losing opportunities and
programs. I pointed out that we had just had a school choir and band
concert with Bradford and Odessa and that at the end of the concert,
the Bradford teacher thanked everyone for the opportunity and hoped
for a similar experience next year. The problem is that next year, the
middle school and high school won’t have a choir teacher.
Natasha Patel brought the room to tears as she defended
Mrs. Popovich and her job here at the school. She pointed out that without
a strong business department, there are many students who will lose
the opportunities that Mrs. Popovich has been given through her business
classes. Christopher Gill also mentioned that while there were many
seniors in the room who will not have to adjust to these changes next
year, many have younger brothers and sisters who will have to.
After shaking hands with Senator O’Mara, we set
off to the steps of the Capitol Building with our posters to lobby.
When we got there, I was taken aback by the number of people who came
to gather for the same cause. We chanted “Fight, fight, fight,
fight, Education is a right!” Brave Brenton Whiting even stood
on the steps to lead the large and loud group with his own chant.
We have all watched as Schuyler County has been forced
to cap any tax-rate increase of community members at 2%. With increased
government mandates and increased expenses, Watkins Glen High School
has had to start “giving up,” or “trimming,”
the programs that gave this school its broad range of courses and curriculum.
This spiral effect of mandates and tax limits by the county has led
to the sad story of WGHS not having adequate funding to provide a strong
school full of possibilities.
Traveling to Albany was an incredible, overwhelming experience
that revealed to me that we cannot stop fighting until we get our education
funds back. We don’t just want the $200 million that they took
away, we want $250 million for restoration and improvement. We rallied
so that schools don’t have to compete for funding any longer and
so the playing field among schools is leveled. Most importantly, we
fought for what we know is right, what we know is ours, and what we
need so that the future of America is strong once again.